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Interview: Ferhat Özgür
There are perceivable layers in creating images in some of your recent works such as the series named ‘Yerler’ and ‘Mürekkep’ dated 2013. How did these series improve? What did you want to question in these series?
Let me explain from the very beginning. My interest in photographic image has developed over my curiosity on understanding and interpretation of the structure and still I could not satisfy my curiosity totally. My works as a whole are products of my approach that sees the photographic image structure, which is an important element of the ideology it is produced from, as a troubled field.
In order to work in the photographic image field that is surrounded with common acceptances and verifications, it is important to me to recognize that field in great detail. It is important because I must maintain my objections and stance against by using the constituents of this dominant structure. Just like people who work in the verbal field and who build a different structure by turning the language and the structure upside down and inside out by using the words of the daily language. And my works start by tampering, dismantling, smashing and bringing out the process and ends with bringing together the main elements of photographic image for a different view in an unusual way. Hereby, I would like to stress on the style. I think that difference is made with style.
As for the series “Yerler”; it includes most known works of mine. I still continue this series whose first tests were done by me in 2002. I displayed its first samples in 2006 in C.A.M Gallery where there was the exhibition called `Ego Kirilmalari`. And in 2007 with the `Kopru6` exhibition in Istanbul Modern my new works from the series were displayed. In 2008 again in C.A.M. Gallery I held a personal exhibition called `Yerler` and I both named the series and presented its line collectively. I started this series with my interest in `point of view`. Photographic image is established on the principle of viewing the thing in front of the camera with a specific angle. Here, there is an overlapping of time/location. Especially location photographs are worth analyzing in this respect. The point of view that is located on a defining center produces information about the location. `Yerler` discusses this property of photographic image. Is it possible to create type of view complete but different as a whole when getting every pieces with different angles next to each other after looking at a location from a defining center but from thousands of different angles and dispersing the central point of view? I took steps regarding this question and I saw that thousands of images that constitute every piece of this series work as both the smasher and the founder of the new whole.
With this method I work at nearly 60 public locations. These new photographic locations distort the information about public locations and with the style it formed provokes the participation of the eye that is watching.
After a long time, i held the `Murekkep` exhibition which is a result of a series of work in which the figure is again set in center in 2013 in Gallery Zilberman. This series is about the `reproducibility` property of the photographic image. It includes in the work the complementary elements such as mold, print, paper. Before the photograph steps in as a method of producing and reproducing an image; there were methods producing several printings from a mold such as lithography, metal engraving. Images reproduced and circulated gained a more common interactive field compared to the pictures. Nevertheless these limited production processes in which hand drawing was obligatory was not suitable for the production style of 19th century. It was almost an obligation to find photography as a type of image production appropriate with serial production logic. Different from the previous methods photographic image production provided with getting images from the same molds in a short time and in a large numbers and less costly. Photographic images that were added to the printworks began to reach almost everywhere and everybody. Therefore, contributions were made by photographic images to a period of new molds being introduced and reproduced. The series `Murekkep` is my work of using successively three molding and reproduction methods that belong to seventeenth, nineteenth and twenty first centuries. Gravure from the seventeenth century, palladium platinum printing from the nineteenth century and digital imaging from the twenty first century. At the bottom there are gravures in which ottoman palace typages take place. Every type is illustrated in the clothes which determine their place in the society and with a fitting body language. On top of these there are today’s male and female bodies that are digitally shot and processed. These figures that stand on top of each other translucently have the same body language signs and are naked.
Palladium platinum printing gets together these two production methods, which is made on a special paper by hand. I completed the structure I established by making one single print from each of my works that constitute `Murekkep` which is the three methods formed on the `reproducibility` property of image.
Especially, in the series `Murekkep` the female and make bodies gain prominence as metamorphosed intermediary genders. On the other hand, there is also a social-political critical situation when the relation of these forms with locations are regarded. What kind of location is preferred in this series?
I see the location of these works as the unaired space between gravure and palladium platinum printing. The twenty first century person compressed by the tension between the administrative location depicting seventeenth century and the production method of nineteenth century has undergone a change and learnt his uniqueness from the role models. Even when totally naked, if possible, cannot get out of the patterns. This pitiful situation does not depend on us being female or male, it is valid for us all.
I would like to state that amongst all your works I have been impressed more by your series called `Yitik Manzaralar`. The depressive atmosphere in the frames has an interesting power of attractive that gets a person all of a sudden. Is it possible for you to share with us the formation stages in order for us to learn the tricks of the work?
‘Yitik Manzaralar’ is one the works I completed to strengthen my immune system. One of the constituents of the photographic image is the feature of changing the color scale to grey scale which is obligatory in the beginning but afterwards depending on the choice. The classic masters of the scenery extended this scale as much as possible and forced till they could get the photograph they wanted to display. In fact, they formed artificial formations by transforming the natural images that are ready around their environs, and they did not just take the photograph but created it actually. Even scenery photographs that count as direct works of photography include many interventions. The most frequently made objections towards my works are about my works being not photograph as I approached photographicimage from a different angle. So I tamper the `Artificial/Natural` relationship and try to establish an artificial natural environment by following the old masters’ steps in my series `Manzaralar` (İçten Manzaralar, Yıkım Manzaraları, Yitik Manzaralar). İ shot the first images of these works while wandering around abandoned, isolated locations. I especially care about working in overcast weather in order to intervene the light as I like whilst processing the images. I pass the images I got through the processes of chemical/dark room and digital/camera lucida. In order to get a night and day mix of light I increase the dramatic effect of black and white, create dark spaces with high pressure. I think the power of attraction you mention comes to life with both the conditions of the environment I chose while shooting and the installations I make during image processing.
In some of your photographs human figure is the main element but in your series like `Gece Manzaralari` the street itself is the main element. How do you approach to the relation between human and nature-city?
While choosing the images I work on which I collect both from the nature and the city, I move over the traces of the personal relations generally. Because all this physical environment is a produce of human’s production and consumption relations. Cities are outputs of this production and consumption system. It is getting more difficult to mention a natural piece of a nature independent from these huge global cities that keep enlarging by overcasting each other. I think we are foreign to the nature of nature. As an artist that tries to discuss the so-called `Natural` by trying to form the `Artificial` one in every work, I believe that the city includes some hints. How ever can we internalize a city as natural that comes out as artificiality? It is relatively easy to answer this. The main problem is to establish the re-viewing of the artificial one again and again…
What can you say about the process of post-production in photography?
I see it as the most important stage of photographic image being formed. With the shootings made with improved imaging technics are concluded only when passed through image processing phase. And the perfect human view reproduction of photographic image is over. Now, we are in the phase of visualization that exceeds the limits of human eye. The most functional part of this phase is the image process and more importantly image producing processes. By using these software, without making any camera shootings, `natural` images that are totally artificial could be produced in front of a screen. Even though this developed utility provokes one in the beginning, it makes me hesitate since photographic image is a tool that can adapt the viewer to the `natural` so quickly. In order to break the codes of the world of these images that are cut off from its subject totally but imitating to be natural, it will be necessary to apply for breakdowns.
You are an artist that has an important function in the adoption of photography as a discipline itself in modern art arena in Turkey. What would you like to say about the status of photography in Turkey including the galleries, institutional support and collectors’ interest?
Photography works included in art in Turkey became more visible for the last 7-8 years. However, it is not possible to say that the educational institutions that raise candidates for the art environment, art institutions that support art, galleries that hold exhibits and make sales, writers writing about photography in different atmospheres and art collectors understand the structure of photographic image completely yet. And we are afar from the required environment that would make it possible.
In this period, the main determinant and norm saver is the buyers. Their likings determine the level too. This situation affects the artists who produce photographic image. In a very big part of production that meets the demand and in limited number, artists do not care much about the means, viewing politics, code systems used and the impositions of the style. They consider photographic image only as a carrier. At first it escapes from the attentions that photographic image is a message itself. The most important problem caused by this subject-focused approach is the discordance between the exhibiter and the exhibited. As a means of entertainment and having a great time, adorned with a cosmetic aesthetics, this is the situation of art in general and photograph in private for now.
Even if it brings along itself the discussions, art that we generally call today a phenomenon has become a phenomenon of everyone. Could we say the same for photography? What are the requirements of being a photographer in a private discipline?
Computers, digital photography, internet created an equality of opportunity for everybody to take photographs. However it is in itself a question mark about amongst all those millions of stereotypical images which may produce a meaning. According to me, now, works are more difficult than before. But it is undeniable that it destroys weak structures. My hope is that there will be a move towards the real one, one day.